In Ironies of Faith, celebrated Dante scholar and translator Anthony Esolen provides a profound meditation upon the use and place of irony in Christian art and in the Christian life. Beginning with an extended analysis of irony as an essentially dramatic device, Esolen explores those manifestations of irony that appear prominently in Christian thinking and art: ironies of time (for Christians believe in divide Providence, but live in a world whose moments pass away); ironies of power (for Christians believe in an almighty God who took on human flesh, and whose “weakness” is stronger than death); ironies of love (for man seldom knows whom to love, or how, or even whom it is that in the depths of his heart he loves best); and the figure of the Child (for Christians believe that unless we become like unto one of these little ones, we shall not enter the Kingdom of God).
Esolen’s finely wrought study draws from Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Mauriac, Milton, Herbert, Hopkins, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky, among others, including the anonymous author of the medieval poem Pearl. Such authors, he believes, teach us that the last laugh is on the world, because that grim old world, taking itself so seriously that even its laughter is a sneer, will finally—despite its proud resistance—be redeemed. That is the ultimate irony of faith.